By Roger Drinnon
“You gotta go out and knock on doors,” says the Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, whose many responsibilities include leading the Synod’s Hispanic Ministry and serving as director of Church and Community Engagement for the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM).
Door-knocking by those he helped train for outreach has an increasing number of folks asking, “Que creen los Luteranos?” — or “What do Lutherans believe?”
Hispanics “are ready to become Lutheran Christians, but we have to be there for them,” he says. “They’re not interested in what you know until they know you care.”
Hernandez says the mission field appears ripe for the harvest. Many Hispanics abandoned Catholicism in recent years for more contemporary churches, yet now they find themselves longing for the true Word of God and the Sacraments.
“When our trained people knock on doors — we call them ‘residential interviews’ — asking residents to share what, in their opinion, are the most critical, unmet or underserved needs in their neighborhood, after some time conversing, they become comfortable. They also become curious,” Hernandez says.
“When the Holy Spirit moves them to ask about what we believe, we pull out a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and go straight to Luther’s explanation of the Second Article on redemption. Then, they ask if they can have one copy … two? OK, three!”
One notable effort in Hispanic Ministry involves the ONM’s “Mission Field: USA” initiative for church planting, as the Synod looks to establish a church in Brownsville, Texas.
“This Hispanic church plant will have one of several domestic ‘Network-Supported Missionaries,’” (NSMs) Hernandez says. “The goal is to plant a bilingual congregation in North Brownsville and a campus ministry at the University of Texas at Brownsville, while also continuing Spanish services at historic El Calvario Lutheran Church in downtown Brownsville, on the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Hernandez says NSM candidates are currently being considered in consultation with the Texas District.
“Launching two new ministries out of El Calvario Lutheran Church will be a great blessing to the wonderful people of El Calvario, its neighborhood and the greater Brownsville community,” says the Rev. Michael Newman, a mission and ministry facilitator for the Texas District. “We’re praying that through our partnership with the LCMS in Brownsville, many people will receive Christ’s love, come to know Jesus as their Savior and be activated in mission for Him.”
“Brownsville will be a pilot project for Mission Field: USA. It is an excellent location, as it is like a modern-day Ephesus, a port city that is a gateway into Mexico and Latin America,” says the Rev. Steve Schave, the ONM’s director of both Church Planting and Urban & Inner-City Mission.
“There are great human-care needs to serve the poor, campus ministry with a primarily Hispanic student body, and it is a burgeoning area on the Mexican border with growing medical and technology industries there,” Schave says.
“By the grace of God, we will be sending a domestic missionary to plant a new church, start a campus ministry and to use mercy houses on campus for human care. This will be a place where people can bring mission teams to come and serve, and [we] pray for support of this initiative in a new era of LCMS missions.”
Learn more: lcms.org/hispanicministry